When intermittent fasting is more than a cool fad……..

Everybody likes identity. We like to identify ourselves with a particular way of doing things; eating, training, working, learning……heck, we even get people categorizing what kind of video gamer they are!

I’m a paleo guy.

I’m a crossfitter.

I’m in the low carb crew.

I’m an ‘IF’er (intermittent fasting).

I’m vegan.

And so on. In fact, many interchange some of the above. The reality is: These are all great and they don’t need to define who you are. They’re merely something you partake in. Which is why we often get folks in any of those camps, without necessarily even realizing it to any great degree.

Just because the guy next to you does something, doesn’t mean you must follow suit in order to be a part of society. We live in as diverse a world as ever. Individuality is very much in.

Rant over: Do what you feel is best for you. Don’t succumb to pressure from fad groups and cult followers. Any of those mentioned work for the right people, in the right circumstances.

Intermittent fasting

This concept has been covered across the board. Newspapers, all kinds of online articles………healthy living sites, muscle building sites, you name it. There are even sites dedicated to this style of eating. And that’s the kicker, a style of eating. Not a diet. 

The said style of eating is backed by an inordinate amount of research. The purpose of this post isn’t to rehash all the present research and offer you preach speeches like….”YOU MUST TRY INTERMITTENT FASTING! It’s the only way to go!”.

My blog is a dogma-free zone. I intend to keep it that way.

Many of you are no doubt familiar with Martin Berkhan of Leangains’ work. Simply put, he’s probably the most, or one of the most influential forces behind raising the voice of IF. And yes, I’ll show Brad Pilon some love too. He also massively contributed to the rise in popularity of IF with his popular book Eat-Stop-Eat.

In addition to the great work of these guys, there are numerous others that have done extensive reviews of either the Leangains or Eat Stop Eat system. These ‘systems’ are their own spins on an eating concept, pattern if you will. That’s much older than many think. Which is why debates as to who’s the ‘creator’ of IF are very silly. It’s nothing new and nobody has the patent for it. Let’s all just enjoy it for what it is, a user friendly, healthy eating pattern.

Talking points, experience and thoughts……..

If you hadn’t caught on, I’ve got a fair portion of experience with IF. I simply wouldn’t dare to press a key if I hadn’t. The interesting point is, I’ve also got significant experience eating WAY more frequently (up to 5 meals daily in the past!). Now ironically, I realize that’s actually a low frequency to some.

It was wake up, eat as soon as possible. “Go to hell catabolism!” Then eat every 2.5 hours there after, on the dot. And hopefully allow a window of roughly 2 hours between the last feeding and bed. Even this was sometimes hard to do.

Now to some this may sound like a party, eat all day…..YUM!

Alas, it wasn’t quite so sexy. What nobody tells you – or forgets to – is these 5/6 meals actually take TIME to prepare. Even more so when it’s wholefood meals you’re prepping. (As you should be for the vast majority of instances).

A real productivity atom bomb.

Just like Berkhan and countless others, I was a slave to the clock, stove and my ‘schedule’. This becomes even more tedious when you’ve been fed all kinds of hogwash………”you MUST eat different protein sources at every meal or you’ll instantly become intolerant to that food”. This is a neurotic disaster waiting to happen. Thankfully I survived the explosion.

Months on, I gradually begun to free myself from my self-imprisonment and shuffle my meal frequency down to a more traditional 3. Of course I had a little visit to the land of 4 meals per day along the way. But that’s only getting 2 stars at most from me.

Three square meals is significantly better. You’re free-er to an extent. But what if your schedule is busy and you’re on the road all day with limited access to quality food? I guess it depends how anal you are about it, but as I’ve expressed regularly in these posts………

The one who “doesn’t eat”

Tackling the issue of eating on the road/run – (or around a busy schedule)

Is calorie counting a good method for diet control?

A magic question to make all this ‘diet’ stuff easier

“I don’t eat that though”……….But have you actually tried to?!

………I’m quite particular about what I put in my body. I want nothing inflammatory and devoid of nutrients ever going down my throat. Even when I ‘cheat’, I’ll make a special point to avoid gluten and the likes.

While busy it’s often not feasible to eat high quality meals three times over. 

This is where I think IF has a well earned place. Again, there are no hard and fast rules here. You can adopt a set schedule, my favorite is the 16/8 protocol (16 hours fasted, 8 hour feeding window). Although I wouldn’t jump straight into it if you’re the person who has only known eating right out of bed, ASAP. Build up to a window that suits your schedule.

Maybe your work schedule on some days makes diet adherence nye on impossible. If you’re serious about your eating, adopt an IF approach on those days. If you come to find your energy is better on those days, then you might want to wear the official IF badge and do it week-round.

Of course this depends on individual eating capacity. I can polish off 2-300 calories in one meal very easily. But, if you’re not looking to build muscle/gain weight – which most aren’t…..then you shouldn’t need massive amounts of calories daily.

A little irony – 

When I was much younger and wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a protein is if you had a gun to my head, I was never a fan of early eating. Breakfast never really did it for me. Granted, my idea of a good meal in those days would’ve been a bottle of Dr Pepper and a Kinder Bueno. Nonetheless, I never liked eating early.

When you’ve got a big day ahead and you’re a little anxious, the last thing you want to do is chow down a feast! I guess it really depends how highly strung you are – I’m very prone to over-thinking. But think about it, when you’re faced with a challenging task/day, do you feel like eating? It’s the last thing I want to do, personally.

Now you may be different.

Which leads me to this: IF is a flexible form of eating. Not a club, cult or religion. If you’re frustrated that you’re often forced to make poor food choices due to scheduling outside your control, some spells of IF could be the ticket. 

My inclusion of my childhood breakfast preference is to illustrate: it’s little subtleties like that which provide clues to the type of person you are and what approaches to health and fitness may suit you.

Perhaps you never liked eating late as a kid, then you may find you want to ‘front-load’ your food; eat the vast majority of your calories earlier and fast later at night. Obviously if you’re somebody who works later in the day, this would be a great option.

Crushing the misconceptions –

Contrary to generic, misinformed dogma, fasting for longer than 8 hours doesn’t kill you. You won’t lose any gains. For all intents and purposes, it’s calories in vs. calories out. I know we all like to attach our hopes and dreams on finding magical ways of suppressing the laws of nature, but very rarely – if ever, is it done.

If you’re eating a daily caloric intake suitable to your goals, then you’ll attain the result reflective of your general caloric intake. I have been using a 16/8 approach and have been gaining weight pretty nicely. This is my goal though. It takes up to 48 hours to truly start using muscle tissue as fuel. Obviously if you’re 5% body fat and running a calorie deficit, you’ll likely go catabolic quite a bit sooner. But even then, the time to ‘catabolism’ isn’t a mere 2 hours.

People will tell you, “nobody got big……..like really big using intermittent fasting!”

Sure they didn’t. But nobody got “really big” without the drug stacks of those “big” guys. 

Meal frequency doesn’t mean a great deal for the recreational trainee in healthy body fat ranges. Energy turnover does. 

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